Which would you believe when it comes to diagnosing the health of China’s economy — the pulse-taking of the herbal doctor or the lab tests of Western medicine?
Beijing’s leaders are like the herbal doctors, using creative metrics such as power output and shipping indexes that can give a relatively accurate snapshot of manufacturing activity.
Private-sector economists, by comparison, believe in more mainstream data such as money supply and fixed asset investment even though they might not be completely useful in measuring a transitioning economy such as China.
Going by the latest economic indicators, the pulse shows the body is still listless, while the lab test is showing signs of a recovery to health. The last time this happened to China was in 2001, when the world was about to emerge from a brief recession.
It turns out that — like the debate over Western versus Eastern medicine — both methods have their pros and cons. And their relative advantages may be shifting as China itself changes.